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Diversity makes a stronger workforce but how do you attract disabled people to your organisation?

Aspire had led the sector in terms of accessible and inclusive leisure facilities and service since the Aspire Leisure Centre was built in the early 1990s. Aspire was also the only leisure organisation with expertise in employing disabled people. Aspire set up a pilot for InstructAbility in 2010 to provide training and work opportunities to disabled people. The Mayor’s Legacy Fund supported some courses in London and, in 2013, Sport England funded a three-year project to take it national. Further funding allowed a local delivery model pilot and a research project to bring all the learning together in the form of a set of evidence-based guides for the sector.

Since 2011, Aspire has supported hundreds of disabled people in gaining leisure-based qualifications and job opportunities through its InstructAbility programme.

EmployAbility Leisure is an initiative created by Aspire and championed by industry leaders to create more accessible and inclusive training and workplace environments for disabled people in the fitness and leisure sector. A set of free-to-download industry Guides were released in March 2022 for disabled people, training providers and employers, along with discussion videos supporting each of them. You can see more information and download them here.

An EmployAbility Leisure strategic partner group was set up with members from national organisations such as Sport England, CIMSPA, ukactive, Activity Alliance, Community Leisure UK, UK Coaching and EMDUK. The purpose of the group is to work collectively to achieve sustainable change in the sport and leisure sector that will result in more disabled people working in different roles and at different levels across the sport and leisure industry.

Hilary Farmiloe, Strategic Lead for EmployAbility Leisure at Aspire, said, “It was important to capture a decade of learning from InstructAbility to help others going forward. Everyone who went on this journey – from the disabled people enrolled on the course, to the course tutors and the employers who offered work placements and jobs – has played an invaluable role in contributing to a body of evidence of what works.

“It is also amazing to see InstructAbility graduates who, 10 years on, are thriving as fitness professionals and giving so much to clients of all abilities and playing a part in changing wider society. We have seen some exciting changes as the sector embraces the EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) agenda and we have also seen some specific examples of how the guidance has helped organisations implement change.”

The main aim currently has been to work collectively to develop a sector in which disabled people feel confident and valued as employees, and where they can trust that training and professional development will be as equally accessible to them as their non-disabled peers. This would in turn attract more disabled people to work in the industry across all levels and roles, and therefore bring down any pre-existing barriers for customers and staff alike.

EmployAbility Leisure also ran free workforce diversity workshops for training providers and employers, to assist them in best implementing this guidance – with a view to giving individuals working within the sector the confidence and skills to create an inclusive approach within their workplace.

There are also videos hosted on their website to hear more from disabled people, industry experts and leading organisations, and know what they think about the EmployAbility Leisure Guides. You can watch them here.

A research report detailing the impact of the EmployAbility Leisure project will be published later in the year.

We want to thank Reema and her colleagues at Aspire for their amazing hard work and achievement over the years.

Author Bio:

Headshot of ReemaReema Dada is a caffeine-infused marketing and communications officer for EmployAbility Leisure at Aspire. She is passionate about inclusivity and diversity in the workforce, and can talk about it all day. She also has a passion for outdoor spaces, trying niche coffee shops, travelling with her little family and a late-night affinity towards Netflix.


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